The Third’s the Charm


“The third time’s the charm,” the saying goes.

It is a paean to the payoff of persistence.  Get back up on that horse, re-tackle that problem, dare to open your heart after it’s not only been broken, but broken once again.

It expresses a magical intersection among effort, hope and faith.

Falstaff dispatched one Mistress, advising: “this is the third time; I hope good luck lies in odd numbers.  Away, go; they say there is divinity in odd numbers, either in nativity, chance, or death.”

(Homer Simpson’s approach is the considerably  less Shakespearean flip side: “You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.”)

Little did I know that the allure of the third also is a tenet of photographic composition–one to which I unwittingly have been subscribing, casting vivid foreground wonders against glittering bouquets of bokeh, endless points of light far beyond my grasp. . . at least on first or second try.

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Learning Curve

December 2012 (c) SMG

Last January one of my daughters shepherded me through the relatively minor technical work needed to begin this blog, giving me a nicely calendared progression of posts upon which to reflect.

Recently I found on my husband’s computer the 500 digital photographs–among tens of thousands he took–that he rated highest.  I studied them to try to discern exactly why these were so special to him.  Some were obvious: pictures of all our children, and other family members, and me (I am a very reluctant subject and he cleverly captured the latter from afar, without my noticing); pictures of nature–from an up-close tiny blue newt on our daughter’s shoe to panoramic mountain ranges–from three continents.

Some–like some of the favorite photographs I am posting here–may require a little bit more interpretation.  One I took at a farmer’s market after depositing a child at school on a gorgeous late August day; another was taken at a wedding, on a boat in Boston Harbor; another, an observer would be unlikely to know, is of flags waving atop a white picket fence in the aftermath of a murderous shooting spree just up the street from our home last spring.  Our little town’s police chief was shot to death, and four other officers grievously wounded.  The town’s lone elementary school’s parking lot had become a staging ground for an armed standoff.

Sometimes the story behind a photograph is nothing like you would imagine.

I decided to take yet another cue from Jim and try to wrap up this year on the blog by finding one photograph and post from each month of this blog’s brief but extremely therapeutic (for me) existence: not necessarily technically the best photograph I took that month, or the best-written post, but the ones which have some special meaning to me.  I may not even know yet why, but I’ll take a stab at it.

January Sky (c) SMG 2012

January is a close call, because the single poem I would want everyone I know to read, Kindness, is found in another of the month’s first dozen posts (The Other Deepest Thing).  But the post to which I return most frequently is The Things He Carried.   The title is a take on Tim O’Brien’s novel (with the intriguing narrator of self-consciously dubious reliability), and writing this post about the few small things my husband–who was not tied to material goods in the way most people are–carried to the end truly helped me to think about the ways in which an object without any monetary value can be rendered priceless, imbued with stories, with love and friendship and the fondest of memories.

February 2012 (c) SMG

I had the sense that I wrote nearly constantly in February, although in fact it appears that my roiling winter mind churned out only a few more posts than it had in January.  Again I have a close runner-up (Renewing Rituals), but it was closely followed by Coletanea de Death Cab–the post in which I reflected on being alone–but not entirely–during the long drive back from a memorial service in New Jersey. Continue reading “Learning Curve”

Trying to Trick Time in Kyoto (Part 1: The Bird-Whisperer )

I tried, fairly consciously, to trick time.

It was a fool’s errand, but nonetheless led to a great adventure.

On the anniversary of the hour of Jim’s death at home, it was already the next day in Japan, where I accompanied a daughter who was attending a conference in Kyoto.

The date, March 22, hovered around us on two continents, and everywhere in between.

One of my teenage daughters was to deliver a paper at an International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing.  There were only two academic areas in which Jim and I thought this shockingly versatile child would have absolutely no interest: engineering and medicine.  She is now a card-carrying member of the IEEE, and will polish off medical school prerequisites with organic chemistry.

And, no: I have no idea what signals processing is, but I do know that my husband would have been tickled beyond measure about her making this trip.  I also know he would have found a way to accompany her, his carry-on luggage filled with camera equipment and books about Japan, and his Ipod loaded with Japanese language lessons.  He would have eaten eel.  He would have loved Kyoto.

It happened that our sons had the same week off from school, although another daughter did not.  And so four of us did what Jim would have done: we set off on an adventure.

Our daughter (who already is on her second passport) made the travel arrangements, which began with us chasing daylight around the globe.  A blinding sun never set from the time we left Boston, setting down in Minnesota for a quick transition to another flight to Seattle, where we hovered over glorious mountains before boarding a plane to Osaka.

(Alas, we did not have a Captain Bob or a Captain Joe, but the flights still went smoothly.)

We arrived in Kyoto near bedtime there, having lost a day–though not the day I had sought to misplace–along the way.

Continue reading “Trying to Trick Time in Kyoto (Part 1: The Bird-Whisperer )”

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